Democracy and Human Rights in Developing Countries

By Zehra F. Arat | Go to book overview

1
Introduction:
Social and Economic Rights
as a Condition for Democracy

There is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are: equality of opportunity for youth and for others; jobs for those who can work; security for those who need it; the ending of special privilege for the few; the preservation of civil liberties for all; the enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising

standard of living.— Franklin D. Roosevelt

The 1980s were exciting years for advocates and students of democracy. The military rule in many Latin American countries, in Turkey, and in Pakistan gave way to civilian, multiparty electoral systems. The Eastern Bloc countries moved away from one-party "communist" rule one after the other, illustrating the process of the domino effect. Authoritarianism in Senegal and the Philippines was replaced with democratic systems. Major steps toward competitive elections were taken in Jordan, Nepal, and the Soviet Union.

What has been the response to this wave of democratization? Some, especially those who focused on the changes that were taking place in Eastern Europe, called it "the end of ideology," or "the crisis of authoritarianism." Others interpreted these simultaneous developments as the triumph of an "ideology"—that of democracy. But is it? In a quite comprehensive discussion of this trend of democratization demonstrated in the 1980s, Rustow lists differing underlying reasons for each case without being able to identify a single common denominator, but concludes that due to the "end of the cold war" the world would be safer for democracy. 1

Recalling the occurrence of similar events in the past, however, calls for caution in reaching hasty conclusions. Some other periods in recent history were also characterized by a process of democratization taking place simultaneously in various parts of the world. What happened to the democratic systems that were established in the 1950s, or to the democratic institutions founded by the newly independent states of Africa in the 1960s? Within a few years after their establishment, many of these regimes were subject to military takeover, and others were maintained as democracies only in name. Contrary to earlier expectation, democracy failed to establish itself as the political system that is

-1-

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